As a precautionary measure to prevent the spread of COVID-19, The Salvation Army in Manatee County (Bradenton, Florida) temporarily suspended its traditional community dinner offered weeknights.
This meal has always been free to anyone in the community in need – regardless if they are homeless or not. Knowing this is a vital service, the decision was made to hold the community dinner outside and serve meals in to-go packages.
“Initially, we saw a drop-off in our numbers,” stated Tom Giglio, The Salvation Army’s Food Services Manager in Bradenton. He added, “but now, with so many people losing their jobs and not knowing when they will see a paycheck again, we’ve seen a spike of new people coming for food. We are seeing many more families than normal now.”
Since so many of the dinner patrons are not homeless, this gives them the opportunity to pick up meals for their family, while staying within the CDC social distancing guidelines and eat that meal in the comfort of their own homes.
Didi, a regular at the community dinner, is appreciative to be able to have a hot meal each evening. She said, “I am so grateful that The Salvation Army is there to serve this dinner. I worried about what would happen when all of the restaurants had to close, but you are still here to help people like me.”
Mobile handwashing stations have also been put in place to give people a chance to wash their hands before handling their own dinner. Clients staying at the shelter are also directed to wash their hands when they reenter the building.